Coroner's inquest jury to consider 5 recommendations in police shooting death of Matthew Mahoney
Jury expected to start deliberating Friday
The jury tasked with examining the circumstances that led to Matthew Mahoney's fatal interaction with two Windsor police officers will consider five recommendations.
During the inquest's closing submissions Thursday, lawyers presented the suggestions as ways to prevent similar deaths in the future.
Mahoney was shot and killed by police in downtown Windsor on March 21, 2018. He had many interactions with the health-care system prior to that, being treated for schizophrenia — a fact police weren't aware of at the time.
At the end of the coroner's inquest, the jury of five has the ability to make their own recommendations and accept or reject the following ones made by some of the lawyers involved:
- To help people receive timely mental health care, the Ministry of Health provide funding to allow health care organizations the ability to collect and publish mental health care wait times as well as the specific availability of those supports.
- Within six months, the Ministry of Health form a task force to review and report on funding, accessibility of mental health care and the availability of resources for family members or caregivers of those individuals.
- Ontario government should enhance supports for family whose loved one died in a police encounter.
- Ministry of the Solicitor General explore providing police with training to recognize when mental illness may be playing a role in a situation.
- Ministry of the Solicitor General consider reviewing current processes when police respond to a call involving a person with mental illness.
Jury to determine means of Mahoney's death
Another issue the jury must consider is the manner of Mahoney's death. They can choose either suicide, homocide or undetermined.
Mahoney's brother Michael Mahoney said his family doesn't support the finding of suicide by police. He said he believes Mahoney's intentions were never to have police kill him, as evident by his attempts to avoid police and not interact with them.
Jenny Stephenson, a lawyer representing Mahoney's psychologist Dr. Abdul Khan, said her client also doesn't believe his death should be classified as suicide, but rather homicide. She said this doesn't mean police are to blame, instead that Mahoney's death was a lawful killing by police.
However, Dan Scott, who made closing submissions on behalf of the two Windsor police officers who shot Mahoney, believes Mahoney's death should be classified as a suicide.
"As difficult as it is, it is the actions and reactions of Matthew Mahoney that led to his death and by logical inference, that is a suicide," said Scott.
The presiding officer is expected to read the charge to the jury Friday morning, essentially starting the process to allow them to deliberate.
What they've heard so far
Michael Mahoney testified at the beginning of the inquest, talking about the 33 years of his brother's life leading up to the incident, not the "last terrifying seconds" of it. He said he remembers his brother as an incredibly strong, intelligent person "filled with generosity."
"Without Matthew, there will never be a normal for my family again," Michael said.
Mahoney was spotted carrying a butcher block of knives in downtown Windsor around 8 a.m. on the day of the shooting. He was making some people uncomfortable, according to a Starbucks manager who called the police non-emergency line to report Mahoney's strange behaviour, the jury heard.
Soon after, Windsor police located Mahoney near the intersection of Ouellette Avenue and Wyandotte Street. He walked toward the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot, the area where Mahoney was shot and killed by police.
Windsor police constable John Paul Karam was the first officer to exit his vehicle that day in an alleyway between the Shoppers Drug Mart and McDonald's restaurant. As Mahoney kept walking away, trying to evade officers, Karam said he was trying to "build that quick rapport" by asking him what was going on.
"You have no probable cause to speak with me," Karam remembered Mahoney saying. Mahoney, Karam said, continued to walk toward the McDonalds, which was busy with a morning rush of customers.
"Obviously [he was] trying to evade me or at least ignore me," Karam testified.
Officers try to contain Mahoney to protect public safety
Karam said in his mind, for the safety of the public, he didn't want Mahoney to get into that parking lot. He referred to that as his "line in the sand" and if Mahoney crossed it, Karam said, he knew he would need to take action.
Karam testified that as Mahoney's back was to him, he took out his Taser and said in a firm voice: "You need to stop and talk to me."
In one quick motion, he told the jury, Mahoney took one knife out of the wooden block and the rest scattered across the pavement.
"He sprinted toward me," Karam said.
He fired the Taser, he said, and the two leads designed to shock Mahoney latched onto his puffy clothing, proving ineffective.
Mahoney pressed forward, he said, slashing toward Karam's face and neck area.
"I immediately place my hands over my face in attempt to protect myself," said Karam. "I begin quickly back peddling, trying to create some distance between him and I."
Shots fired, officer stabbed
Walking backward, Karam said, he tripped on a curb and fell onto his back. He said Mahoney stood now over top of him, and all he could do is use his hands to protect himself.
Const. Andre Marentette fired one shot from his gun, the jury heard this week. Marentette had arrived moments after Karam.
Mahoney, Karam said, stood and pointed his attention away from Karam, which gave Karam an opportunity to pull his gun. Karam said he fired three or four shots before Mahoney fell to the ground.
Marentette testified earlier this week that he fired multiple shots at Mahoney's centre mass, which is where Windsor officers are trained to aim.
"As he fell, I distinctly remember him saying 'thank you,'" said Karam, referencing some of Mahoney's final words.